A life-size portrait of the famous rhinoceros named Clara is the massive centerpiece of the J. Paul Getty Museum's exhibition Oudry's Painted Menagerie. In her honor, the Getty has produced My Travels with Clara, a book for children that tells the true story of this five-thousand-pound animal and her owner, an eighteenth-century Dutch sea captain. My Travels with Clara begins in India, where Clara was born, and follows this amazing animal and her owner through their exploits in Berlin (where she met Frederick ...
A life-size portrait of the famous rhinoceros named Clara is the massive centerpiece of the J. Paul Getty Museum's exhibition Oudry's Painted Menagerie. In her honor, the Getty has produced My Travels with Clara, a book for children that tells the true story of this five-thousand-pound animal and her owner, an eighteenth-century Dutch sea captain. My Travels with Clara begins in India, where Clara was born, and follows this amazing animal and her owner through their exploits in Berlin (where she met Frederick the Great), Paris (where she was a sensation and inspired rhinoceros hairdos), Versailles (where she met Louis XV and had her portrait painted), Rome (where she lost her horn), and finally Venice (where Clara joined in the annual Carnival). A delightful story for children ages eight and up.
"It was love at first sight. She was just a baby..." So begins Mary Tavener's intriguing account of the true eighteenth-century journey of Clara, a thousand-pound young Indian rhinoceros, and her friend and traveling companion, Dutch sea captain Douwe Van der Meer. This creative nonfiction account is told in the first-person voice of the captain, and it's in the form of reminiscence that we learn of their adventures together. Clara, we are told, was orphaned in her youth and spent some time in the house of a kind man in India, "where she walked carefully around the furniture and ate from plates." Tavener conveys historical fact but grounds this story in topics children can easily understand, including friendship and the idiosyncrasies of a baby animal. The voyage on the good ship Knabenhoe, Clara's care and feeding, her travels across Europe, and the tour that resulted in Claramania in France in the time of Louise XV—all these are anchored by the friendship between man and rhino. All kinds of little gems are included in the telling. Clara loved oranges, for example. She once lost her rhino horn, much to everyone's panic, but it grew back. Such details keep the pages turning. The artwork, done with an artful blend of pen-and-ink and what looks like watercolor, will have the reader returning again and again to revisit the rich detail. Also incorporated in an old-fashioned design are pieces of period art such as metalwork, beadwork, landscapes, and portraits that enrich the story. Also includes a pronunciation guide and illustration notes. In the manner of Zarafa, vivifying the fascination of Europeans of that time with exotic animals, this story is brought to life here for childrenin an imaginative and informative way. Reviewer: Uma Krishnaswami
Spun from a true historical episode and illustrated with a mix of simply drawn cartoons and 18th-century prints and paintings, this affectionate memoir recalls visits to the great cities of Europe in the company of an exotic Indian rhinoceros. Raised as an indoor pet, gentle Clara was sold to Dutch sea captain (and narrator) Douwe Van der Meer, who brought her back to Rotterdam, had a special carriage built for her and exhibited her from Rome to Berlin. She became a celebrity, especially in Paris where "Claramania" led to new rhino-influenced fashions, art objects, hair styles-and even a formal, life-sized portrait. "I'm glad that the world had the opportunity to see Clara," Douwe concludes. "Just as important, I'm glad that Clara could see the world." Like Mary Jo Collier's King's Giraffe, illustrated by Stefane Poulin (1996), this is an engaging animal story that also provides a glimpse of a time when Europeans were at last awakening to the world's size and wonder. (Picture book. 7-9)
Mary Tavener Holmes is an independent scholar from New York who specializes in French eighteenth-century paintings and drawings. She is the author of numerous publications, including Nicolas Lancret: Dance Before a Fountain and A Magic Mirror: The Portrait in France, 1700-1900, with George T. M. Shackelford. Jon Cannell is the owner of Jon Cannell Design and Illustration. He has worked for such clients as Starbucks Coffee Company, Chronicle Books, the Harvard Business Review, and UNICEF.